Math in Action: Explore a Master’s in Statistics vs. Data Science

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Modern industry relies on mathematics in the form of data. Data helps organizations track trends, identify opportunities, and make improvements in their processes and business models. Organizations across industries look to professionals who understand data and know how to interpret it to help drive success.

If you’re excited by the exploration of data and ready to advance your career, pursuing an advanced degree might be the right next step. Master’s degree programs in both statistics and data science explore how data can put math into action, but their paths vary. There are several differences to consider when weighing a master’s in statistics vs. data science.

A statistician and a data scientist analyze sales figures

Master’s in Statistics Overview

With a focus on collecting, organizing, and understanding data, advanced statistics programs teach students techniques and skills for interpreting data. Typical courses include biostatistics, statistical analysis, and statistics and probability. Students pursuing a master’s in statistics delve into the application of math and the cultivation of strong analytical problem-solving skills. Students also learn how to communicate results effectively, particularly to those who may not be as conversant with the topic.

What Master’s in Statistics Graduates Do

Graduates with a strong statistical background can pursue a wide variety of careers as statisticians or statistical analysts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of statisticians work for the federal government in some capacity, although many also work in finance, research, and insurance. Statistics work often involves collaborating with a team of other professionals, particularly engineers and data scientists.

Types of careers:

  • Biostatistician
  • Statistical analyst
  • Statistician

Master’s in Data Science Overview

An advanced degree in data science, such as Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Data Science, applies statistics to the analysis and interpretation of digital data. With a heavy emphasis on computer programming, machine learning, and predictive modeling, this degree allows graduates to excel in the growing data science field. Through this advanced degree program, students will learn to work with data across the digital landscape. Graduates will emerge equipped with creative problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to communicate their findings.

What Master’s in Data Science Graduates Do

While many computer science program options exist, those interested in interpreting information to make important decisions should look to data science. Graduates with advanced degrees in this field have no lack of options due to their strong analytical skills. They can pursue careers as data engineers, data analysts, or data scientists. The BLS reports that 28% of data scientists work for the federal government, but many also work in computer design and software publishing. They usually work with engineers on projects. Specialties for data scientists include robotics and programming.

Types of careers:

  • Business analyst
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Data engineer
  • Data scientist

Similarities Between a Master’s in Statistics and Master’s in Data Science

Both statistics and data science degree programs are a good fit for logical thinkers interested in careers that focus on analyzing data. In addition, both programs tend to teach graduates skills that are in high demand in a wide array of industries. In fact, both career fields are expected to experience above-average growth in the next decade. According to the BLS, jobs in data science are expected to grow 19% over the next 10 years, while jobs in statistics are expected to grow 33% in the same period. Compared to the 7% average of all career fields, this represents significant growth.

In addition, both advanced degrees offer opportunities to step into leadership roles in their respective fields. Graduates of either program have the specialized knowledge to communicate their findings, develop experiments, and interpret large sets of information.

Differences Between a Master’s in Statistics and a Master’s in Data Science

Although they hone similar skill sets, advanced degrees in statistics and data science differ in their required coursework as well as the career paths graduates pursue.


One of the main differences between a master’s in statistics and one in data science revolves around how students interact with computers. An advanced degree in statistics focuses more on mathematics and does not include a heavy emphasis on computer science or programming. Students use computers to model behaviors and analyze data, but learn minimal coding, emphasizing instead methods for collecting data and designing experiments.

A degree in data science includes a heavier focus on computer science, such as learning various computer programming languages and studying artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data mining, including strategies for streamlining the extraction of huge quantities of data.

Future Career Paths

Graduates with a master’s degree in statistics can work as statisticians or statistical analysts. Additionally, they can apply their skills as financial analysts or research scientists. They can work in commerce, trade, economics, or psychology. Their day-to-day work tends more toward research and the analysis and representation of data.

Data science graduates can work in virtually any field, from healthcare to government to manufacturing. Their day-to-day work involves ample time with computer systems, and they excel as data engineers, data scientists, and analysts. On a daily basis, data science graduates take data, interpret it, and use it as a decision-making tool for an organization.

Master’s in Statistics vs. Master’s in Data Science: Which Is Right for You?

Pursuing an advanced degree means leaning into a specialization that you’re passionate about. If you are a math-focused student who enjoys digging into numbers, a master’s degree in statistics could be a great fit. However, if you’re interested in harnessing digital data to help make key decisions, a master’s degree in data science provides you with ample opportunity for advancement. Explore Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Data Science, and learn more about how you can accelerate your career in this growing field.

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